Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Prayer for Boston

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Below is a healing and hopeful prayer by my friend and fellow New England Pastor, Brandon Levering.

Gracious Father,

Today we’re faced with the painful reminder that we still live in a fallen world.

Today the earth gave way as an explosion tore apart the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Yet this was no natural chaos; this was an act of evil, intent on wounding and terrorizing the people of this city and her guests, while the rest of the world was watching.

We call it ‘terrorism’ because that is what it seeks to do—strike terror and fear into our hearts. God, we confess, sometimes it works. We are afraid. We fear for our safety. We fear losing our loved ones. We fear the loss of life as we know it.

Yet there is one thing on earth that no bomb can shake, and no terror can overcome: your presence. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Because you are with your people, we need not be afraid. Though the waters roar and the nations rage, you are a refuge and fortress to your people. Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, those who take shelter in your presence will not be moved. Though this world may take away from us everything we hold precious, even our lives, it cannot take us away from you. You are our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble.

As our city quakes from the effects of sin in this world—the evil, the violence, the injuries and loss of life, we pray that your holy and healing presence would be made known.

We pray for the victims of this tragedy. We pray for healing for the wounded, and comfort for the bereaved. We pray for loved ones sitting in waiting rooms or watching the news at home. May hearts and eyes turn to you at this time, as you make your power and presence known by your Spirit in the face of Jesus Christ.

We pray for those who have come to the aid of the victims—the police officers, the bystanders, the response teams and medical personnel. We pray for the doctors and nurses administering care late into the night. We thank you for their courage, on a day when our Commonwealth celebrates the heroism of the patriots of the Revolutionary War. We pray that you would be with them to guide them in their care and treatment.

We pray for churches in Boston, that together we would be light for this city. As you dwell in a special way among your people, may your people be to this city an expression of your compassion, care, and shelter for those who are scared and hurting in this city. May Jesus be on display in our words and deeds—he who wept at the death of his beloved friend, who in his own death took on himself the evil and sorrow of this world, mixed with his Father’s holy anger against our evil rebellion, yet conquered death and brought new life when he rose from the grave.

And we’re reminded that our hope rests in another city—a city that cannot be shaken.

So we look forward to the day when we will rest and rejoice in your glorious presence in that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, as it comes down from heaven in your new creation.

We look forward to a day when you will make wars and violence cease to the ends of the earth. When all wrongs will be brought to justice, and your peace will triumph over all.

We look forward to a day when all will recognize your rightful rule over creation, when your enemies will be put under your feet, and your name will be exalted to the ends of the earth.

And we pray in the meantime that we would rest in you. Give us the grace to be still, to cease striving amid our helplessness, with the knowledge that you are God. You are our help. You will be exalted as God. Your kingdom will triumph in the end. Your name will be exalted in all the earth.

Be present with us now. And come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Find Brandon’s Blog HERE.

When Should We Fast?

fastingWhen should Christians fast? Does Jesus ever tell us? Jesus assumes that his disciples will practice fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). But Jesus also taught that there is a time when his disciples should fast and there’s a time when his disciples should not fast.

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. –Matthew 9:14-15

Apparently during Jesus’ public ministry, his disciples did not regularly fast. And other faithful Jews thought it strange. So Jesus explains that it would indeed be strange for his disciples to fast while he was with them. Imagine fasting during a wedding banquet? Silly right?! Jesus says he’s the bridegroom and as long as he is with his disciples they shouldn’t fast but feast–feast on all that God is doing in and through the person of Jesus!

That might sound strange to us today. Isn’t it supposed to be…”all eyes on the bride”? Today, yes. But in Jesus’ day the bridegroom, not the bride, was the center of attention.

Jesus’ disciples then did not fast because, Jesus, the bridegroom, was with them.

Jesus’ disciples today do fast because Jesus, the bridegroom, is not with us. Yet.

We fast because we want to be with him. We fast because we cannot wait for him to come back. We fast today knowing that though the King came and inaugurated his kingdom, we are waiting for him to come back. We fast knowing that the King will come again and fully consummate his kingdom. And so fasting reminds us that that we must be hungry for God’s Kingdom to come, hungry for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, hungry to hallow his name now and forever!

So when should we fast? NOW! Now and until King Jesus returns! When we fast, every grumble in our stomach should create a homesickness that will only be cured at the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Great Banquet in the New Creation. And then we will never fast again!

    On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
        a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
        of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
    And he will swallow up on this mountain
        the covering that is cast over all peoples,
        the veil that is spread over all nations.
        He will swallow up death forever;
    and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
        and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
        for the LORD has spoken.
    It will be said on that day,
        “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
        This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
        let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
–Isaiah 25:6-9

Fasting Resources

“Fasting reveals what our hearts truly hunger for.” That was the big idea from Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 6:16-18. So…here are a few tools/resources that will help us understand how fasting helps awaken and deepen our hunger for God himself.

A Hunger for God

This is probably the best book on fasting I’ve read. You can download the PDF for free from Desiring God ministries or purchase from Amazon, etc.

Here’s John Piper giving a jet tour through the book in less than 3 min. Love this line: “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God” (p. 14).

 

9 Reasons to Fast

Here’s a one chapter summary on what the Bible teaches about fasting, from Don Whitney’s book The Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. He says…

For some Christians, fasting for spiritual purposes is as unthinkable as shaving their heads or walking barefoot across a fire pit…Christians in a gluttonous, self-indulgent society may struggle to accept and to begin the practice of fasting. Few disciplines go so radically against the flesh and the mainstream of culture. Of course, there are some people who, for medical reasons, cannot fast. But most of us dare not overlook fasting’s benefits in the disciplined pursuit of a Christlike life.

And don’t forget! We don’t fast to impress others or to impress God. But to hunger for God! Whitney also adds this encouragement before walking us through 9 reasons to fast:

Scripture gives many purposes for fasting. I’ve condensed them into several major categories. Whenever you fast, you should do so for at least one of these purposes. Notice that not one of the purposes is to earn God’s favor. We cannot use fasting as a way to impress God and earn His acceptance. We are made acceptable to God through the work of Christ Jesus, not our work.

  1. To strengthen prayer
  2. To seek God’s guidance
  3. To express grief
  4. To seek God’s deliverance or protection
  5. To express repentance and a return to God
  6. To humble yourself before God
  7. To express concern for the work of God
  8. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
  9. To express love and hunger for God

Let’s continue to pray for each other, WBC, to practice fasting and all of our discipleship without hypocrisy but with a sincere faith in our Father’s goodness and a passion for his glory.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer Together

Praying handsThis reflection on the Lord’s Prayer by Pastor John Piper is a wonderful example on how to pray the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern and model for our prayers. Let’s pray this together, Church!

Father, cause your great and holy name to be honored and reverenced and esteemed and treasured above all things everywhere in the world, including our hearts.

And cause you glorious, sovereign, kingly rule to hold sway without obstruction everywhere in the world, including our hearts.

And cause your all-wise, all-good, all-just, all-holy will to be done all over this world the way the angels do it perfectly and joyfully in heaven—and make it happen in us.

Father, we are not asking for the bounty of riches. We are asking for bread. Just enough to give us life. We want to live. We want to be healthy, and to have a body and a mind that work. Would you give us what we need for our body and mind?

And, Father, We are sinners and need to be forgiven everyday. We can’t live and flourish with guilt. We will die if we have to bear our guilt every day. We have no desire to hold any grudge. We know we don’t deserve forgiveness, and so we have no right to withhold it from anyone. We let go of all the offenses against us. Please, have mercy upon us and forgive us and let us live in the freedom of your love, through Jesus, because of Jesus, your Son, our Savior.

And Father, we don’t want to go on sinning. We are thankful for forgiveness, but, Father, we don’t want to sin. Please, don’t lead us into the entanglements of overpowering temptation. Deliver us from evil.

–”The Lord’s Prayer”, adapted by John Piper from “Our Deepest Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name.”

Prayer: Discipline or Desperation?

Praying hands

A convicting quote from one of my favorite books on prayer.

If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else—a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on.

— Paul Miller, A Praying Life, 59.

Dispatches from the Front

This winter we will be sharing a video each month from a series called “Dispatched from the Front.” These are “National Geographic” quality videos that show the stories of frontline missionaries in far-away places where it’s hard to be a Christian. Together we’ll watch an amazing 50 minute video, discuss it and pray for the nations. Our next video “A Bold Advance” is Saturday, January 26 at 6:30pm. Here’s a preview that I hope will encourage you to join us.

May God strengthen our passion for international missions!

An Advent Prayer

adventIn this Advent season of waiting on the Lord,
we trust in the Lord’s goodness.
We rely on his mercy.
We find shelter in his steadfast love.
In this Advent season of waiting on the Lord,
we walk in the Lord’s way.
We follow his example of love.
We keep our covenant promises.
In this Advent season of waiting,
Lord, forget our sins.
Remember your love.
Remember each one of us.
Remember your people everywhere.
In this Advent season of waiting,
Lord, we wait for your salvation.
We wait for your leading.
We wait for your coming.
—based on Psalm 25:1-10, The Worship Sourcebook, D.1.13.

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